I love municipal Government because it is closest to people. What we do or don’t do at the city matters to residents and our quality of life. The most important part of being a city council member is representing my constituents, that means constituent service is job number one. I answer my e-mail personally and quickly and our office responds to constituent requests usually the same day and always within 24 hours. When you call my office, we answer. When you ask for help, we respond and when you need information we provide it. Attending neighborhood meetings and events is the best part of the job for me. I love sharing what’s going on at city hall and most importantly listen to what you’d like to see go on in city government. I am visible in the community and have had over 1200 residents attend one of our monthly Lunch with Lisa meetings making city government accessible and interesting.
As chair of the Community Development Committee, I have dedicated much of my time as a member of the City Council leading our affordable housing agenda. An unfortunate side effect of the growth we have seen is low vacancy rates, limited affordable homeownership options, rising rents and conversions of affordable housing to market rate with minimal protections for tenants. Our poorest neighbors are often hit hardest.
I believe a wide range of resources is needed to address this issue, including development of new housing, partnerships with community land trusts to purchase homes and ensure perpetual affordability and the preservation of naturally occurring affordable housing. This is all part of an holistic approach to assist in the development and preservation of affordable housing in our city. I founded the city’s affordable housing trust fund and made sure it was fully funded annually. I have helped change policies in the city to focus financial resources on those at very low income levels with a special focus on hard to house populations such as those who are formerly homeless, or have a disability that makes finding affordable housing all but impossible. I support using tax credits, bond financing and very occasionally tax increment on some very specific projects as part of a toolbox for preserving existing affordable units. I strongly believe we need to focus building new housing in areas of the city where there are a lack of affordable options because integration of affordable housing into market rate projects and higher income neighborhoods will better help us address racial and economic disparities citywide.
Because of the city’s housing policy 515 new affordable housing units were produced in Minneapolis in 2015, more than any other community in the Metropolitan area and more than the next 3 combined. In 2016 Minneapolis received a Housing Performance Score of 100 out of 100 available points from the Metropolitan Council, and the city’s total investment for preserving existing affordable housing and new construction in 2017 is nearly $110 million.
Going forward, we need to:
- Change our requirement for tax credit and bond financed projects to require 30 year affordability if not perpetual affordability.
- Require notice for owners who want to sell and convert affordable housing to market rate so that preservation strategies are pursued before tenants are evicted and rents increase dramatically.
- Pursue changes to laws that will prevent evictions without cause.
- Strengthen the ability of tenants to report life safety problems in apartments, prevent retaliations, and require effective and timely remediation.
- Hold the line on developer fees and the total cost per unit for new construction.
Small business and smart development
I believe we fulfill our longstanding commitment to move Minneapolis forward by creating opportunities for every one of our residents by emphasizing growth. Growth is critical for our city as it provides increases to our tax base, which eases the pain of property taxes and fees and allows us to more readily pursue our progressive goals. I have made it my business to prioritize promoting economic development in Minneapolis to help small businesses grow, fill up empty storefronts and office space, and create more local job opportunities,
Going forward we need to:
- Improve small business navigation so that each small business opening in our city has an easy time getting appropriate approvals.
- Work to expand and retain jobs in our city by helping existing business find access to capital, trained employees and business expansion opportunities.
- Eliminate overlapping and redundant regulations so that business can get licensed and operating more quickly.
- Support business in our city by ensuring a well trained workforce focused on career pathways for the jobs we have and our employers know now they will need in the future
Environment and sustainability
I have led on environmental issues on the CIty Council. I have been successful in making Minneapolis a greener and more sustainable city, and while some sustainability measures cost more upfront, their costs over the life of the investment are much lower. All of the investments we make in clean energy, green infrastructure, local food, transportation and water systems are opportunities for us to support local businesses and train our residents for the jobs of the future. The City needs to make sure its investments touch every corner of the City and are conditioned on a minimum level of social benefits that help us address educational and economic disparities.
Going forward, we need to:
- Move in a more efficient direction in our relationship with energy, working with utility, non-profit and community partners to implement city-wide residential and commercial energy-efficiency programs using financing such as Property Assessed Clean Energy (PACE) bonds and Conservation Improvement Program (CIP) funding
- Leverage the franchise agreement with Xcel Energy to gain commitments for more roof-top solar energy installations in the City, including more community solar garden projects that offer subscriptions to small businesses, non-profits, and residential ratepayers at all income levels
- Expand efficiency projects like the Green Business Cost Share program, which promotes investment in sustainable green infrastructure by providing funding for Minneapolis businesses to make energy and water efficiency improvements in our buildings
- Work with the University of Minnesota to establish a baseline for measuring our urban heat islands, the temperature difference between the downtown core and the surrounding area, as we develop strategies to mitigate its effects
- Make sure City policies support the development of a network of electric vehicle charging stations to support electric vehicle use
- test new energy technologies and create pilot projects for systems such as solar-powered streetlights, micro-grid systems and smart-grid improvements